Wire’s 100 Records that set the world on fire while no one was listening. 71 – 75

We’re reaching the ‘nether regions’ of the list now, but by no means is the music any less at this end than it was at the other. The world is getting smaller and access is getting broader so the sounds are reflecting our interests and our reach. With Youssou N’Dour and Jonathan Harvey at the end there, we leap into the 1990’s from the 80’s and all that uber cool punk feel into the more complex sounds of the high experimentation of mutligenres later in the 90’s. The main thing all these list-dwellers have in common is a dedication to experimentation.  All the albums on this list push boundaries but we’re starting to see the word genre broken apart here.  Reggae bands performing the best punk you’ll ever hear; Senegalese parliamentarians breaking open the borders of African jazz; Film director turns album auteur – it’s all avant-garde and its all against the grain. One thing you can be oh-so-sure of, however. It’s all damn good!

Just a reminder, this post is a series of posts.  You can find the earlier posts here.  Also this is a look at the list compiled by Wire. You can find that list here.

Derek Bailey


Derek Bailey was an English avant-garde guitarist and leading figure in the free improvisation movement.  In 1970, Bailey founded the record label Incus with Tony Oxley, Evan Parker and Michael Walters. It proved influential as the first musician-owned independent label in the UK. Oxley and Walters left early on; Parker and Bailey continued as co-directors until the mid-1980s, when friction between the men led to Parker’s departure. Bailey continued the label with his partner Karen Brookman until his death in 2005. Along with a number of other musicians, Bailey was a co-founder of Musics magazine in 1975. This was described as “an impromental experivisation arts magazine” and circulated through a network of like-minded record shops, arguably becoming one of the most significant jazz publications of the second half of the 1970s, and instrumental in the foundation of the London Musicians Collective. The beauty of this album lies in Bailey’s treatment of the guitar almost as a found object. This is music lifestyle choice. To the listener straining for points of reference, slices of Japanese koto, punk rock, Country blues, flamenco, and folk guitar might seem to surface momentarily only to dissolve again, as Bailey draws his lines of escape from all habit, cliché, and resolution. But over the top of it all is a commitment to free form jazz that imbues the album with its ‘permission’. You REALLY want to take a walk on the wild side?  This is the kind of album that makes it possible.

Bad Brains

Bad Brains

Probably the biggest accolade to give this album is Adam Yauch of Beastie Boys has been quoted as saying that this album is “the best punk/hardcore album of all time”. It was originally released on cassette only but has since been re-released by ROIR on both CD and vinyl. When the album was released in 1982, fans and critics alike were stunned to learn that the musicians behind this album – one of the fastest albums of all time upon its release – were religiousAfrican-American Rastafarians who also were skilled at reggae. The album was a crucial step in the formation of hardcore punk and the eventual fusion of hard rock and reggae adopted later by bands like SublimeFishbone, and 311.  Who knows where their influences came from. This poorly recorded wild ride of a silde is as relentless as the most hard core punk you’ll hear, following all the rules and breaking them at the same time. Here’s what Wire have to say: You think you’re all worked up? Let this album be your yardstick. You saw The Beatles on Ed Sullivan? We saw Bad Brains at A7 and up became down. This ineptly recorded, completely relentless music justifies every cliche thrown at it — runaway train, water shot from a hose, Coltrane as a rock, whatever. The group’s unexpected changes and catchy riffs may be the product of their fusion background, but in 1982 who knew where the hell four black (belt) punks came from, much less what they listened to? Singer HR channeled the putdowns of Johnny Rotten through pro-Rasta positivity and local concerns and, just to make his point, danced for the hearing-impaired like James Brown, Original Punker. The dub numbers (hardly a fashionable move back then) give you chance to catch your breath before the next hayride to righteousness. There may be faster, harder or louder punk music somewhere but it doesn’t levitate like this utopian shitfit.

Kip Hanrahan

Desire Develops an Edge

Hanrahan was born in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in the Bronx to an IrishJewish family. He has an unusual role in the albums released under his name, one which he has analogized to that of a film director. He assembles players and materials, combining modern/avant-garde/free jazz figures like Don Pullen and Steve Swallow, Latin jazz players such as Milton Cardona and Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez, and occasionally rock singers like Sting and, most notably, Jack Bruce. here’s what Wire have to say about this incredible album: Hanrahan, a former film student turned audio auteur, was pushing the envelope even by New York standards. Different musical camps were already checking each other out, but the dolly mixture he picked for 1983’s Desire… looked flamboyant to the point of foolhardiness. This was where Bronx met East Village; Latinos and Haitians doing the bump and skronk with No Wave art punks, free improvisors and jazz’s contemporary cool. Rhythmically luscious, it oozed sensitivity; Jack Bruce sang a blinder (his relationship with Hanrahan still bears fruit), while the likes of Elysee Pyronneau, Arto Lindsay, Steve Swallow, the three Johns – Stubblefield, Scofield and Zorn – Milton Cardona and Davis’s producer (and Hanrahan’s idol) Teo Macero gave themselves completely to the mood. Next to this, Bill Laswell’s pick ‘n’ mix ventures were crude patchworks.

Youssou N’Dour

‘Djamil’ – Inedits 84 – 85

Youssou N’Dour  is a Senegalese singerpercussionistsongwritercomposer, occasional actor and businessman. In 2004, Rolling Stonedescribed him as, “perhaps the most famous singer alive” in Senegal and much of Africa. He is also the Minister of Tourism and Culture of Senegal. N’Dour helped to develop a style of popular Senegalese music known in the Serer language as mbalax, which traces from the conservative Serer music tradition of “Njuup” (the progenitor of Mbalax).  He is the subject of the award-winning films Return to Goree directed by Pierre-Yves Borgeaud and Youssou N’Dour: I Bring What I Love directed by Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, which were released around the world. Despite how prolific and widely known he is, there is a not a lot of the music out there that really indicates teh extent and talents of the man. I have a soft spot for the African Continient and Senegal in particualr. With this brilliant album the sounds of the country are brought to life, then pushed past any recognisable boundary, creating new structures.  Taking on the roles of the different drums, blaring brass, slinkily sinuous guitars, percussion and voices pursue simultaneous conversations, with sudden changes in rhythm and tempo. The interplay of Youssou’s gilded shriek, Ouzin Ndiaye’s braying Islamic baritone and Alia Seck’s exultant rapping adds both drama and a zaniness as disorientating as the complexity of the music.  A GEM of an album and one to seek out and hold on to with both hands.

Mark Stewart

Learning to Cope With Cowardice

HOW fucking genius is this? This classic album was recorded between 1981-1983 and was produced by the great Adrian Sherwood, and it shows Stewart at his darkest and most creative, with noise pop and dub perfectly at odds with each other. The two sounds probably shouldn’t work well but Stewart and Sherwood condense them and blend them ending up with a result that makes perfect sense. Slipping somewhere into no-wave and proto-Bristol sound this was when black British culture was dripping into mainstream music for the first time – the 25 years since then have taken this as a given but Stewart and his followers were true pioneers of the time. Any of you who lapped up the recent Soul Jazz compilation of Stewart’s work will no doubt enjoy up this crucial re-issue. A fantastic head-on collision of culture and influence – recommended. Buy it at Boomkat.

Jonathan Harvey

Jonathan Harvey 2: Bhakti (Nouvel Ensemble Moderne/Lorraine Vaillancourt)

The word love is brandished about so much on this blog you may be fooled into thinking I was a tad emotionally thin or at the very least, fickle. Make no mistake, when I speak of the love of a sound  – as I have for example love for this album – I mean that gut wrenching heart tearing passion that one finds only once in a lifetime in a human creature – but fortunately about three times a day in art.  I ADORE this album. I get a little girlie hard on for the electronic music anyway, but the arrangements here by Jonathan Harvey really float my boat. Check out what Wire have to say: Harvey fits the profile of the ‘academic composer’ in a New Music ghetto. Yet the British composer has written some of the most stunning electronic music since Stockhausen, with dazzling combinations of synthesized sounds and real-time orchestral forces. Born in 1939, he underwent a “Stockhausen conversion” in 1966: “Here was a man who was quite explicitly seeing in music the language of some greater consciousness.” Harvey’s best known piece, Mortuos Plango, Vivos Voco, was created at Ircam in 1980. A second Ircam commission, the electroacoustic Bhakti, is probably his masterwork, inspired by hymns from the Rig Veda, “keys to transcendent consciousness”. Harvey’s precise but sensuous aural imagination particularly favours bell – like sonorities, and transitions from tape to orchestra in Bhakti are remarkably seamless. Its first recording inaugurated the NMC label, a vital showcase for contemporary composition in Britain. Still an underrated figure, Harvey is one of the most exciting composers writing today.